Understanding what life is and how it emerges from chemistry is among the hardest open problems in science. New approaches to addressing this problem attempt to tackle it by understanding biochemical networks and their properties within chemical space to identify universal principles of life that might allow us to predict properties of alien biochemistries. This leads to connections in another hard area of science – de novo drug design. In this talk I discuss connections between these two areas, and how our search for alien chemistries for life could inform new algorithms in our search for new drugs and therapeutics.
Sara Walker is an astrobiologist and theoretical physicist interested in the origin of life and how to find life on other worlds. While there are many things to be solved, she is most interested in whether or not there are ‘laws of life’ - related to how information structures the physical world - that could universally describe life here on Earth and on other planets. At Arizona State University she is Deputy Director of the Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science, Associate Director of the ASU-Santa Fe Institute Center for Biosocial Complex Systems and Assistant Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration. She is also Co-founder of the astrobiology-themed social website SAGANet.org, and is a member of the Board of Directors of Blue Marble Space. She is active in public engagement in science, with appearances on "Through the Wormhole" and NPR's Science Friday.